Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee
Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 to 18 February 2014

APPLEBY, Mr Martin, Private capacity

CHAIR: Welcome. The committee has received your written submission as submission No. 10. Do you wish to make any amendments or alterations to your submission?

Mr Appleby : Not at this stage.

CHAIR: I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee, and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee. The committee emphasises, however, that parliamentary privilege does not extend outside of Australia and that Australian law cannot protect individuals in another country, whether they are Australian nationals or not. For this reason, and so as not to prejudice ongoing criminal investigations and legal proceedings, the committee urges witnesses to exercise caution with regard to naming or otherwise identifying individuals located outside Australia, including Papua New Guinean nationals alleged to have been involved in the incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre during 16 to 18 February. Would you indicate to the committee the capacity in which you are giving evidence today.

Mr Appleby : I am appearing in a private capacity. I am a former G4S employee.

CHAIR: Would you like to make a short opening statement?

Mr Appleby : I thank the committee for the invitation to speak in relation to my duties in the lead-up to the incident on Manus Island Detention Centre. I worked in the field of security and corrections for the past 13 years. I have a Certificate III in Correctional Practice. I have a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, which makes me a fully qualified prison officer. My role with Corrections Victoria gave me exposure to the various problems that can arise in a detention environment. I had to deal with multiple medical emergencies, sexual and violent assaults between prisoners, negotiation with prisoners, and at least one cell fire.

I started working for G4S Australia in December 2009. I was asked to apply, which I did, and I arrived in Manus Island in August 2013 in the capacity of a safety and security officer. I was immediately rostered into the higher duties position of defensive tactics instructor and training and assessment officer.

Regarding the riots that took place on Manus Island, in my opinion and my opinion only—it is the asylum policies of both parties that have let down every single person seeking asylum, none more than Reza Barati and his family. The policy as it stands is like a house of cards. The more frustrating part of my role was the complete lack of policy and procedures, none more evident than in the evacuation of the detention centre in October 2013, when the PNG Navy met with the PNG police directly outside the operation centre.

The sexual assault victim came from the Foxtrot compound. I spent three 12-hour shifts with him, which equates to 36 hours, with one medical visit per day. I am not a qualified psychologist, nor am I a person with any medical background, except for a certificate IV in workplace first-aid. The heightened state of anxiety that came upon Manus, I believe, was in around September 2013, in direct relation to the minister, Mr Morrison, standing up and saying to the detainees, 'You'll never see the shores of Australia.' That was supposed to occur in two compounds, but it occurred in one compound, and then the minister was removed from the centre. I believe that was for his safety, the safety of those around him and the safety of the centre itself. That is where I will finish my statement. I am quite willing to answer any questions that are forthcoming.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Appleby. Before we proceed to questions, we have a document called a witness statement that the secretariat has discussed with your solicitor, I think.

Mr Appleby : Yes.

CHAIR: I understand you are wishing to lodge this as a supplementary submission; is that right?

Mr Appleby : If possible.

CHAIR: Can you tell us the status of this document? Has it been prepared in relation to some kind of legal proceedings, or has it been prepared for today? What is the status of it?

Mr Appleby : It is a report that has been prepared in relation to the G4S conduct on Manus Island.

CHAIR: Sorry?

Mr Appleby : The operation on Manus Island by G4S.

CHAIR: Yes, but what is the purpose of it? Is it for today? Is it for us to read today?

Mr Appleby : Yes.

CHAIR: Is that why it has been prepared?

Mr Appleby : You are more than welcome to read it today and draw any questions from it. I know it is very late; I only received a call some hour ago about it.

CHAIR: That is fine. It is just that it is called a witness statement. We need to know, essentially: has it been prepared for some other legal proceedings that are on foot at the moment?

Mr Appleby : No.

CHAIR: All right. In that case, then, you are asking us to receive it. I might just ask the committee. Certainly we are happy to receive it. In terms of this being public information, whether we would be prepared to publish it or not, I cannot see any reason, given that you have prepared it yourself—

Mr Appleby : Yes.

CHAIR: What do we need to do?

Senator SINGH: We can accept it but determine to publicly release it later.

Senator SESELJA: Given that we have not had time to consider it, I think we should accept it but not publish it.

CHAIR: We will accept it. It may be that we refer to some of this and ask you about it, but whether or not we publish it—we will make a decision about that.

Mr Appleby : Thank you.

CHAIR: Now we will go to some questions.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Appleby, thank you very much for your submission, for the supplementary and for being here today. So that I am clear: when did you leave Manus Island?

Mr Appleby : December 2013.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: December last year? So you were there when Mr Morrison arrived?

Mr Appleby : I was.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That is why you referred to that. Have you seen much of the other evidence that has been put forward to the committee over the last couple of days?

Mr Appleby : I viewed Tuesday and a little bit of yesterday, but I have not sat and viewed the entirety, no. I have just grabbed some parts thereof.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We heard from the G4S management on day one. That was on Tuesday. We put a number of questions to them in relation to the training of their staff and the impact of the ratios—the requirement that they had to have 50 per cent PNG nationals employed. Would you like to reflect on any of those points? What was the training like for G4S guards at the centre when you were there?

Mr Appleby : That ratio, which I did hear spoken of, I found it difficult to actually believe because, when I was there and when we were manning the compounds, the expat staff were approximately five to six staff that manned any one compound at any one time, and the majority of the staffing arrangements were then made up of the PNG nationals.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you think it was higher than 50 per cent?

Mr Appleby : I believe it was. Yes, I do. I think that the overall structure of the roster regarding PNG nationals and expats was somewhere in between having the number of expats required to fill the positions on the ground per shift per day. When those requirements were not met because there were too many on leave or not enough on the island—which occurred frequently in the period that I was there—those positions were then taken up by PNG nationals. So the ratio was far and above 50 per cent, in my view.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You stated in your written submission to us that you believe the training was inadequate.

Mr Appleby : It was.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Was that for PNG nationals or both PNG nationals and expat staff?

Mr Appleby : Both PNG and expat staff. The level of relevant expat training that I delivered for those months that I was there was determined by the background of the trainee or the new employee. There were a lot of ex-defence staff—both Australians and New Zealanders—and their expertise in their particular fields allowed the training of those expats to flow very smoothly and very well. It was more dealing with the cultural side of training in dealing with PNG nationals and also the detainees.

When it came to the PNG nationals, by the end of the second day that I was placed on Manus Island and was dealing with training, I raised very valid points to my training managers that the communication between PNG nationals and myself and expat trainers was extremely difficult. We were up there in Papua New Guinea. They speak Tok Pisin; we speak English. It was extremely difficult to converse. Even getting my name across to the 30-plus trainees in the room at any one time was extremely difficult.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: With respect to the guards that you had to train, how long did you have them in a session, or was it ongoing?

Mr Appleby : It was not ongoing when I was there. It was for five days, anywhere between eight and twelve hours per day—per shift. Expats would have taken up probably 12 hours per day. The PNG nationals would have taken up eight to 10 hours or thereabouts. The difficulty in that was that we also did not have anywhere to train them. We did not have a particular room we had to go to. We were looking for undercover areas. At the end of the day we ended up hiring the PNG Navy base rooms. Even then we were removed because I do not think we were renting the place to their liking or to their value. So it was a very difficult situation to train in.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And a pretty messy environment to be trying to train people in, given the added language issues.

Mr Appleby : The end of the package—it may sound silly to the committee—was about how to use a male condom and how to use a female condom. That was the level, at the end of the training, that I had to deliver. I looked at that as a professional and said, 'I'm not going to even go here. There is a lot more training that is required rather than that sort of health issue in dealing with this.' It was extremely strange to me. That went into some development by the training managers to redevelop the training package that was in place.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you know about the national staff that were brought to you needing to be trained before they went onto the job? We were told by G4S that it was six days of training before they could be in the centre. Is that your understanding?

Mr Appleby : Yes, there abouts. Five to six days.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Where were they recruited from?

Mr Appleby : Local villages. There was a large push to get the Manus Islanders on board. I gather that has something to do with the contract that I was not privy to. Then there were Papua New Guineans themselves that came across. Did that 50 per cent figure refer to the Manus Islanders?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That was Manus Island.

Mr Appleby : The rest were made up of PNG nationals from Port Moresby.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You say they were local villagers. Were they often young men?

Mr Appleby : Very much so. Yes. Absolutely. The majority were young men.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Had they had previous jobs?

Mr Appleby : Not to my knowledge. Part of my training is to get to know the student—what I can deliver and how I deliver it—and the professional side of things. You have a cup of coffee with them, talk to them as best you can and try to ascertain what their backgrounds are. They were young unemployed boys and girls from the local villages.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you perceive through that process the warning signs that others have spoken to us about in terms of needing to be disciplined when things are heightened and anxieties are high?

Mr Appleby : By the end of the first week I made that known to my training managers. As I described, I come from a correctional background. I was extremely disturbed by the IRT squad being made up of PNG nationals. I still do not know why that occurred. We had able-bodied ex army, both New Zealand and Australian, in police and corrections up there that should have been the mainstay of that operational IRT squad. I discovered what was going on. We had given them five to six days training and then three days physical training. In Melbourne, in the correctional background, it takes us six weeks to get through our correctional training and then a further five to six weeks with regard to emergency response groups or IRTs.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Was there any element of cultural training for either expat staff or indeed the PNG nationals as to who the asylum seekers were, where they came from, what the circumstances were that led them to be detained on Manus Island and the kinds of countries they came from?

Mr Appleby : No. The cultural awareness part of the package that I delivered was for expats to deal with PNG nationals.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Appleby. I am now going to ask if Senator Seselja or Senator Macdonald have any questions.

Senator SESELJA: I will defer to Senator Macdonald.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I do not have a lot of questions. I have read your statement, which is very helpful. Where do you work now?

Mr Appleby : I don't.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You have been involved in correctional services all of your working life?

Mr Appleby : Yes, absolutely.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: As I read your statement and your submission, your main reason for giving evidence was just to highlight the inadequacies of G4S's management in the time that you were there?

Mr Appleby : The inadequacies that I am trying to raise are both the training and the lack of what we call post orders. When anyone goes to a post or is rostered to a particular position there should be a document there so that if you have never worked that position or particular post before you could pick up the document, which outlines what the job is so that you do not go in blind, that you have some sort of relevance to what you are required to do as rostered. None of that was available at that time.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: We had evidence just before lunch from a couple of committed young people who went up there, with very limited work experience and no training at all, to be a part of the mentoring team. You have worked with G4S before the Manus Island—

Mr Appleby : I did, yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Have you always experienced that sort of corner cutting with G4S?

Mr Appleby : I worked with both state government, which is corrections, and G4S and there is a difference. There is an operational difference, yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: There is usually a difference with any Public Service agency, compared to a private agency. That is not confined to correctional services. In your previous experience with G4S, was it as bad as you witnessed in your, I think, three months on Manus?

Mr Appleby : No, it was not.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: So Manus was worse than anything you had ever seen with G4S?

Mr Appleby : Yes, it was.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Why do you think that was?

Mr Appleby : I think Manus grew too quickly for the experience that was up there at the time. When Manus went from family to single adult male and was filled at such a large, quick rate over five or six months—it went from 200 to 800, 900—on reflection, the personnel which were brought on board on Manus possibly did not have the experience required to deal expertly with them. I think that some of the management structure up there also had that inexperience about them.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Were you there in August when the new regime started at Manus?

Mr Appleby : Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You had moved there?

Mr Appleby : I had come in a matter of weeks after it changed over.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: So it was all a pretty rushed operation, wasn't it?

Mr Appleby : In my view, yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: In my view too, looking from the outside, but reading the newspapers, I mean, this was something that Mr Rudd dreamed up in the days just before he called the election. He realised it was an election issue to do something and so here was something he could do. Are you conscious of what arrangements were made with G4S? Once the decision was made to reopen Manus the government of the day then had to find someone to run it. I understand from estimates evidence that there was no tender for G4S at the time. Were you working for G4S prior to going to Manus?

Mr Appleby : Yes, I was.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: What sort of strata level were you in G4S? Were you upper management, lower management, one of the troops?

Mr Appleby : I came across from the government sector into G4S transport, which was to move prisoners around the state to court, High Court, jail and that sort of thing, and to resolve some issues at that time in the transport sector, both training and defensive tactic training. Then there was certainly company talk about G4S having the contract to Manus. There were three, possibly four, employees from my contract that went up extremely early in that time. So the stories filtered back to us about what was going on.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: But as far as you know G4S first heard about this when Mr Rudd made the agreement with Mr O'Neill.

Mr Appleby : I do not know when G4S were made aware of the contract. I do not know.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Would it be fair to say, given your experience with G4S, that they were ill-prepared to go in at quick notice to such a remote location and try and run a system?

Mr Appleby : Was G4S ill-prepared? Again, I do not know what their preparations were to go to Manus but I know that when they arrived on Manus they had to act as quick as any other supplier would have had to to cater for the detainees to come to Manus.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Would more money have corrected what you saw in your statement as the problem with G4S management? I think it was you saying you are not a psychiatrist but you were doing psychiatric work. Had there been enough money to employ trained professionals, do you think that might have helped?

Mr Appleby : It would have helped, no doubt. The mainstay of it all is that the infrastructure was not and probably still is not correct the number of people there.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Had you been to PNG before?

Mr Appleby : No.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Have you been there since or on the way through? Have you experienced Port Moresby?

Mr Appleby : Yes, I have had through my rotations a one-day stopover in Port Moresby. Again, we were warned not to go outside of the hotel, for various reasons. I think in any third world country like that one would take note.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Your evidence is certainly useful in relation to G4S's management. Thank you.

Senator SESELJA: I am interested in that time when you arrived in August when there had been a change of policy from the Rudd government on 19 July. You were there right from the start of August, were you?

Mr Appleby : I was trying to get some dates on it. I mislaid the flight itineraries and such. I believe it was mid to probably the third week of August.

Senator SESELJA: I think you say in your statement that there were about 500 transferees held there around the time you arrived and that had grown pretty rapidly in the couple of weeks before, because everyone was taken off who had been there prior to the announcement, so all of those 500 would have been new arrivals.

Mr Appleby : That is right.

Senator SESELJA: In that, I guess, rapid ramping up to around, I think, 1,200 or 1,300, what is your assessment in that August-September period of the ability of G4S to keep up when it came to sufficient numbers of staff and other resources? You talked about the infrastructure, which we are all aware of, but was G4S able to get sufficient numbers of trained staff during that time to keep up with the rapidly increasing demand?

Mr Appleby : No, I do not believe so. That could be due to recruitment processes or the time it takes to see backgrounds of applicants and a whole range of things, but I think there were more detainees arriving per day than there were staff. Staff were very much under the pump. The best way of describing that is that our rosters were four days on and days off and then, as quick as waking up the following day, it turned to six nights-six days, with one day off in between. If you come off a night shift, sleep and go back to work on a constant basis, not only are you under the stress of what is happening around you on Manus but the stress in your own person is very, very hard to deal with. Also, I reiterate that the rosters started as six weeks on, two weeks off, and G4S noticed that the staff did not have the ability to cope with that, so they turned that around to four and two. That whole pressure pump of what staff and expats were under was extreme.

Senator SESELJA: Obviously there was a bit of a catch-up with the number of staff coming on board, which presumably would have happened in the following months. Did those shift ratios of six days on and two days off or one day off change and get more reasonable in terms of the pressures put on staff after that time?

Mr Appleby : No, it was not any more reasonable. I certainly approached management and we had words over the change. What happened was that they changed the roster without any consultation with staff.

Senator SESELJA: Was that in August?

Mr Appleby : September or October or thereabouts—the crossover months there. Due to rotations, staff had to go home. They needed a rest and, because of those rotational pressures, they brought it back down to four and two.

CHAIR: Senator Singh, you have 10 minutes.

Senator SINGH: I take it that the main area of your concern is to do with this training package.

Mr Appleby : Training and procedures, yes.

Senator SINGH: You say in your supplementary submission given today, at No. 20, that you were expected to deliver training in defensive tactics. Is that the kind of training that is involved in the delivery of the PPE kits?

Mr Appleby : No, in short. Defensive tactics were where, if one became one-out without any shields or self-defence equipment, one could—

Senator SINGH: Defend oneself with nothing?

Mr Appleby : If you have nothing to defend yourself with, I will teach you how to defend yourself with nothing.

Senator SINGH: I think everyone needs to know that!

Mr Appleby : It is all about creating space, to tell you the honest truth.

Senator SINGH: So you were delivering this in four days when you believe it should have taken a minimum of six weeks.

Mr Appleby : Without a doubt. I say that because that is the background I came from. I appreciate the pressures to get staff on the ground to do what they needed to do in a hurry, but my view is that, if you cannot deliver training to 100 per cent, do not deliver it because you may then in fact be teaching someone excessive force when it should not be used. That then turns into assault. There are ramifications of not using defensive tactics correctly. Yes, that is where it all started to fall apart, in my view.

Senator SINGH: Obviously you were using the time that you had. Were there some G4S employees that were not getting any defensive tactic training at all?

Mr Appleby : I would hope not; I do not think so. There were some G4S employees, at that stage, that could not participate in the instruction that I was giving, due to injury and a range of things, which was listed on an operational sheet. The best delivery was that they had to sit by, watch and demonstrate to me that they were understanding the requirements of defensive tactics.

Senator SINGH: I think you said that you had worked in a prison. Both you and I have a bit of knowledge about correctional facilities. I was a minister for corrections, and you have worked in a correctional facility. In your view, how is Manus Island detention facility different from a correctional facility?

Mr Appleby : It is not. The detainees are kept under lock and key. They are supervised by security. It is the infrastructure that differs. Manus Island lends itself to being a correctional facility more than any other facility that I am aware of. It is probably not quite the right way of describing it, but I would call it a low level correctional facility.

Senator SINGH: But obviously inmates in a correctional facility are aware of the length of their sentence.

Mr Appleby : Exactly. Yes, they are.

Senator SINGH: Who, in your view, was in charge of the Manus Island detention centre?

Mr Appleby : DIAC, from day to day.

Senator SINGH: The department?

Mr Appleby : The department of immigration.

Senator SINGH: There has been some conflicting evidence—it is a little bit chaotic, to be frank—about who is in charge and where some of these directives have come from which G4S and the Salvation Army have had to carry out. We have heard that the department has been named a number of times as being in charge. We have also heard that the PNG government was in charge. So we are trying to get a clear answer.

Mr Appleby : I understand. I came to the conclusion that the department was in charge because of the placement of security personnel in every compound. It came down the line—which I found extraordinary—that G4S expat guards must stand static posts—which means, 'There is that corner. You've got to sight that fence and this fence, and you are not to move for 12 hours.' The PNG nationals were the ones that roamed. I found it extraordinary when I heard a little bit of G4S management-speak about the mentoring program through training. One cannot mentor if one is stuck in a corner for 12 hours. From the operational background that I have, I would have suggested that the PNG guards stand static posts and the expats do the walk around, since they are more equipped through expertise and experience to recognise suicide, self-harm and the possibility of violence. I myself pulled down two effigies of a foam cup that was strung up—it had two little eyes and a nose—hanging by the neck. To me, straightaway, it was a sign of self-harm. That happened twice within three days in Oscar compound. That is because I chose to make sure that my relevant areas were safe, and I did the roaming. So I stepped outside of the guidance, but that guidance was put there by the department, not by G4S.

Senator SINGH: So you are saying that the department determined which G4S staff, whether it be PNG nationals or expat staff, were placed where and whether they could roam or be static?

Mr Appleby : We were instructed by our management team that we were to stand static posts because that was the requirement of the department on Manus.

Senator SINGH: So your management team determined who was static and who was roaming? Or are you saying that they were taking direction from the department about who was static and who was roaming?

Mr Appleby : My belief is that it was taken directly from the department that expat staff were to stay in static post.

Senator SINGH: Obviously, you have just provided us with information that the department were directing G4S how to carry out their service. Were the department directing any other service providers or anyone else about how to carry out their services or roles—just from your knowledge?

Mr Appleby : From my knowledge—and we all know how a workplace works regarding rumour and innuendo—I had coffee numerous times with non-uniformed Australian Immigration staff and you strike up conversations. They discussed what they did and I discussed what we did, and I was led to believe through these conversations that no more than two detainees were to be interviewed by Immigration personnel per day.

Senator SINGH: So they had a kind of quota system they were working to.

Mr Appleby : That is the way I took it, yes. So they received their orders from, I am assuming, Immigration.

Senator SINGH: When did you finish up with G4S?

Mr Appleby : I resigned while I was back in Melbourne on 23 December just before Christmas for ongoing personal reasons.

CHAIR: Thank you, very much for attending today and giving your evidence. Senator Seselja wishes to make statement.

Senator SESELJA: Earlier today Senator Hanson-Young stated that Minister Morrison had misled parliament, so I would like to put on the record exactly what Minister Morrison said on the floor of the House on 24 February rather than the senator's selective misuse of his words. He said:

There will be a formal review into these matters and that formal review will investigate all of the issues that relate to this incident. That would include how this centre was specified and who set it up and how it was set up. It will go into the performance of the service contractors that those opposite contracted. It will go into the security arrangements that were put in place and left to the opposition when we formed government.

He continued:

It will go into all of those matters, and it will go into my conduct and the conduct of those on this side and our handling of these issues since we took over responsibility for these centres. We identified that there was a $1.2 billion funding black hole for the operation of the offshore processing centres.

The minister's conduct since the coalition took responsibility for the centres was referenced in the Cornall report, for example, as illustrated on pages 4 to 5 and 82 to 87 and elsewhere throughout the report. The Cornall review highlighted the decisions and funding arrangements taken by this government, including changes to service providers and improvements to facilities to deal with the underfunded, undeveloped, last-minute policy—the 11th in six years—of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. It might be appropriate that Senator Hanson-Young has the decency to withdraw the accusation which clearly was false.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I stand by it; I will not be withdrawing it.

Senator SESELJA: So you won't have the decency to withdraw what was clearly a false accusation.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I stand by what I said.

Senator SESELJA: You will say anything.

CHAIR: I will not have any more discussion across the committee, thank you.

Senator SESELJA: No regard to the truth.

CHAIR: Thank you. I am now—

Senator SESELJA: Just say whatever you like.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I read the exact words you read. Sorry I didn't put the coalition's spin on it for you.